Buddhist records of the Western world (Xuanzang)

by Samuel Beal | 1884 | 224,928 words | ISBN-10: 8120811070

This is the English translation of the travel records of Xuanzang (or, Hiuen Tsiang): a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled to India during the seventh century. This book recounts his documents his visit to India and neighboring countries, and reflects the condition of those countries during his time, including temples, culture, traditions and fest...

Chapter 8 - Country of Sa-t’a-ni-shi-fa-lo (Sthanesvara)

Note: Sthāneśvara or Thāneśvar is one of the oldest and most celebrated places in India, on account of its connection with the Pāṇḍus.[1]

This kingdom is about 7000 li in circuit, the capital 20 li or so. The soil is rich and productive, and abounds with grain (cereals). The climate is genial, though hot. The manners of the people are cold and insincere. The families are rich and given to excessive luxury. They are much addicted to the use of magical arts, and greatly honour those of distinguished ability in other ways. Most of the people follow after worldly gain; a few give themselves to agricultural pursuits. There is a large accumulation here of rare and valuable merchandise from every quarter. There are three saṅghārāmas in this country, with about 700 priests. They all study (practise or use) the Little Vehicle. There are some hundred Deva temples, and sectaries of various kinds in great number.

On every side of the capital within a precinct of 200 li in circuit is an area called by the men of this place "the land of religious merit."[2] This is what tradition states about it:—In old time there were two kings[3] of the five Indies, between whom the government was divided. They attacked one another's frontiers, and never ceased fighting. At length the two kings came to the agreement that they should select on each side a certain number of soldiers to decide the question by combat, and so give the people rest. But the multitude rejected this plan, and would have none of it. Then the king (of this country) reflected that the people are difficult to please (to deal with). A miraculous power (a spirit) may perhaps move them (to action); some project (out-of-the-way plan) may perhaps settle (establish) them in some right course of action.

At this time there was a Brāhmaṇ of great wisdom and high talent. To him the king sent secretly a present of some rolls of silk, and requested him to retire within his after-hall (private apartment) and there compose a religious book which he might conceal in a mountain cavern. After some time,[4] when the trees had grown over (the mouth of the cavern), the king summoned his ministers before him as he sat on his royal throne, and said: "Ashamed of my little virtue in the high estate I occupy, the ruler of heaven[5] (or, of Devas) has been pleased to reveal to me in a dream, and to confer upon me a divine book which is now concealed in such-and-such a mountain fastness and in such-and-such a rocky corner."

On this an edict was issued to search for this book, and it was found underneath the mountain bushes. The high ministers addressed their congratulations (to the king) and the people were overjoyed. The king then gave an account of the discovery to those far and near, and caused all to understand the matter; and this is the upshot of his message: "To birth and death there is no limit—no end to the revolutions of life. There is no rescue from the spiritual abyss (in which we are immersed). But now by a rare plan I am able to deliver men from this suffering. Around this royal city, for the space of 200 li in circuit, was the land of 'religious merit' for men, apportioned by the kings of old. Years having rolled away in great numbers, the traces have been forgotten or destroyed. Men not regarding spiritual indications (religion) have been immersed in the sea of sorrow without power of escape. What then is to be said? Let it be known (from the divine revelation given) that all those of you who shall attack the enemy's troops and die in battle, that they shall be born again as men; if they kill many, that, free from guilt,[6] they shall receive heavenly joys. Those obedient grandchildren and pious children who assist (attend) their aged parents[7] in walking about this land shall reap happiness (merit) without bounds. With little work, a great reward.[8] Who would lose such an opportunity, (since,) when once dead, our bodies fall into the dark intricacies of the three evil ways?[9] Therefore let every man stir himself to the utmost to prepare good works."

On this the men hastened to the conflict, and regarded death as deliverance.[10] The king accordingly issued an edict and summoned his braves. The two countries engaged in conflict, and the dead bodies were heaped together as sticks, and from that time till now the plains are everywhere covered with their bones. As this relates to a very remote period of time, the bones are very large ones.[11] The constant tradition of the country, therefore, has called this "the field of religious merit" (or "happiness").

To the north-west of the city 4 or 5 li is a stūpa about 300 feet high, which was built by Aśoka-rāja. The bricks are all of a yellowish red colour, very bright and shining, within is a peck measure of the relics of Buddha. From the stūpa is frequently emitted a brilliant light, and many spiritual prodigies exhibit themselves.

Going south of the city about 100 li, we come to a convent called Ku-hwan-ch'a (Gokaṇṭḥa).[12] There are here a succession of towers with overlapping storeys,[13] with intervals between them for walking (pacing). The priests are virtuous and well-mannered, possessed of quiet dignity.

Going from this north-east 400 li or so, we come to the country of Su-lo-k'in-na (Srughna).

Footnotes and references:


The pilgrim probably left Mathurā and travelled back by his former route till he came to Hānsi, where he struck off in a north-west direction for about 100 miles to Thāneśvar or Sthāneśvara. This is one of the oldest and most celebrated places in India, on account of its connection with the Pāṇḍus. See Cunningham, Anc. Geog. of India, p. 331; Lassen, Ind. Alt., vol. i. p. 153, n; Hall, Vāsavadattā, p. 51.


This is also called the Dharmakshetra, or the "holy land;" and Kurukshetra, from the number of holy places connected with the Kauravas and Pāṇḍavas, and with other heroes of antiquity. For some remarks on the probable extent of this district, see Anc. Geog. of India, p. 333, Arch. Sur. of India, vol. ii. pp. 212 f., and vol. xiv. p. 100; Thomson, Bhagavad. Gītā, c. i. n. 2; Lassen, Ind. Alt., vol. i. p. 153.


That is, the king of the Kurus and of the Pāṇḍus. The struggle between these two families forms the subject of the great Sanskrit epic, the Mahābhārata.


Some years and months after.


This is the general title given to śakra or Indra, śakradevendra.


This differs from Julien's version; the literal translation is "many slain, guiltless, they shall receive the happiness of heaven as their reward (merit)." It seems to imply that if they shall be killed after slaying many of the enemy, they shall be born in heaven.


Or, "their relations and the aged." It is an obscure passage, but the allusion is probably to those who attend to the wounded or the bereaved.


There may be a reference to mourning for distant relatives, implying that this also shall be rewarded.


I.e., of hell, of famished demons, and of brutes.


The phrase "ju kwei", "as returned." has a meaning equal to our word "salvation" or "saved." The sentence appears to be interpolated.


There is a Vedic legend about Indra, who slew ninety times nine Vṛītras near this spot. The site of Asthipur, or "bone-town," is still pointed out in the plain to the west of the city.—Cunningham, Geog., p. 336; Arch. Sur., vol. ii. p. 219.


This may also be restored to Govinda.


"Lin mang" = connected ridgepoles (?).

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